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A History of Quizzes and Puzzles

19:00 Tue 13th Dec 2011 |
Here at The AnswerBank we are very good at quizzes and puzzles. Thanks to our huge numbers of intelligent and helpful members many a quiz question or puzzle has been successfully solved. Mankind has continually strived to test and stretch its mental power from the earliest time of civilisation and now quizzes and puzzles are a worldwide obsession, pastime and hobby.
 
The word quiz was first coined around 250 years ago in 1784 and originally meant an odd person. After a few etymological variations the word has settled into the English language and has a great scrabble score.
 
There is an unfounded myth that the word was invented as part of a bet. It is said that in 1791 James Daly, a theatre owner in Dublin, made a bet that he could make up a word and get it into the language within 24 hours. He hired a group of street urchins to write the word “quiz” on the walls of the city and within a day the word was common currency and had its meaning.
 
The word puzzle has been around a bit longer, from the end of the 16th century and was first documented in a book called The Voyage of Robert Dudley...to the West Indies, 1594–95. The first jigsaw puzzle is generally agreed to have been made around 1760 by John Spilsbury who was an engraver and map maker and was designed to help teach British children geography.
 
Crosswords are possibly the single most recognisable form of puzzle and every day millions are attempted around the world. The first example of a crossword puzzle appeared in 1890 in an Italian magazine but it did not look like the conventional black and white grid.
 
It wasn’t until 1913 that the crossword emerged in its current form in the New York World. It was published by Arthur Wynne and is credited with being the first crossword puzzle. Famously the New York Times did not at first like the idea of the crossword, could not see the attraction of the pastime and they did not publish a crossword until 1942!
 
Nowadays you can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing some form of written puzzle like a crossword, word search, Sudoku or codeword so go ahead and get those brain cells fizzing!

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